By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
A new canine officer has joined the ranks within the Grove City Division of Police.
Rakka, a 2-year-old Dutch shepherd, comes to Grove City from Holland, where he was trained as a dual-purpose canine officer. He will spend the next six weeks training with his new partner, Officer Jared Nelson, at Storm Dog K-9 Training in Sunbury, Ohio.
Grove City Division of Police Chief Richard Butsko said he is confident Nelson will be a terrific canine handler.
“Officer Nelson has had a tremendous performance on the job,” said Butsko. “He is hard-working and motivated.”
According to Lt. Eric Scott, support services bureau commander, Nelson volunteered to handle Rakka.
“He has the right home circumstances,” said Scott.
Not only will Nelson and Rakka work together, but they will also live together. After the initial training period, the pair will have ongoing training sessions several times per month.
Rakka joins the police force after the death of Max, an 8-year-old Belgian Malinois who had been with the department since 2015.
“We closed the canine program for a few months to pay our respects to Max,” said Butsko. “It is time to resume the program.”
Max died unexpectedly in early June during an emergency surgery to remove a cancerous growth.
Max’s handler, Officer Brian Kitko, has put his support behind Nelson as the division’s latest canine handler.
Rakka will assist in narcotics detection, article tracking, and building searches. He will also track fleeing suspects or missing people.
“Canines cannot do a lot of the tasks regular officers do, but they have very special capabilities,” said Butsko. “They are very good at maintaining order.”
The police chief said canine officers do very well at security, crowd control, and controlling unruly people. He said some suspects have no problem confronting a group of armed police officers, but they are unwilling to challenge a police dog.
Another aspect of their job is public relations.
Max became somewhat of a celebrity in Grove City. He and his handler participated in community events, marched in local parades, and spent time educating the public about safety issues.
Scott said they also expect Rakka to have a big impact with community relations.
“He is an overly friendly dog,” said Scott. “If all goes well in his training, the community should see him out at community events.”
Rakka is scheduled to graduate his training course Sept. 17. He should be performing regular duties for the city of Grove City at the end of the month.
“He will be a great addition,” said Butsko. “We are looking forward to getting him in service.”
It cost the city $15,500 for Rakka and his initial training. It costs about $3,300 annually to maintain a canine officer.